|Kevin Orenshein as his IDF unit prepared to destroy tunnels built by Hamas (The Boiling Point Photo)|
I mentioned in a recent blog post how I was contacted by a reporter from LA Weekly seeking information about Adam Livvix, the Marshall, Illinois native charged last December in Israel on charges related to his supposed intent to blow up Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. The Israeli soldier accused of providing explosive devices to Livvix, as it turns out, is actually an American citizen from the upscale Beverlywood neighborhood on Los Angeles' west side. The LA Weekly published a story by Gene Maddaus recently recounting from 22-year old Kevin Orenshein's perspective how he was duped by Livvix, whom he mistakenly believed was a former Navy Seal from Texas who had come to Israel to reconnect with his Jewish faith.
Orenshein grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family and wanted to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, an employee of American defense contractor Northrup Grumman who had served in the Yom Kippur War. He enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces upon graduating from high school and became a "lone soldier" as American soldiers serving in the IDF are referred. Orenshein, a tank operator in the Gaza Strip with the rank of sergeant, describes to Maddaus a bromance that developed between him and Livvix. "I loved the guy," Orenshein said. "I talked to everyone about him. I told everyone I knew a Navy SEAL, and he was a genius." Orenshein says he met Livvix, who used the name "Everett Adam" on a beach in Netanya during the fall of 2013 while hanging out with other Americans who were serving in the IDF. He noticed Livvix had a frogman tattoo on his back with a unit number, the symbol worn by Navy SEALS. "Sick tattoo, man," Orenshein said to Livvix. He described Livvix as a "big guy--6 feet and 220 pounds" who talked with a Southern accent. Orenshein said he ran into Livvix a few months later and from that point on the two began hanging out together whenever he was off base.
When Livvix and Orenshein hung out together, they would drink, smoke pot and play video games. Orenshein had the impression Livvix came from money because he always seemed to have plenty of money to spend and drove a 2012 Volkswagen Passat, which he considered a nice vehicle to own in Israel. He claimed he had heard Livvix got his money from an uncle or earned it from selling a cancer drug. He also heard that Livvix owned a yacht that he planned to sail on to Greece. During the time Orenshein ran around with Livvix, he ran a power-washing business, which employed a couple of other former Israeli soldiers from America, where he cleaned stone buildings in Jerusalem. Sometimes when Livvix got drunk, he talked smack about why the Israeli army didn't carpet bomb the Gaza Strip or poison their water supply. He also talked about blowing up the golden mosque in Jerusalem sacred to Muslims known as the Dome of the Rock. Orenshein told the reporter it didn't occur to him he should report Livvix to police because "everyone" in Israel "says something racist about Arabs."
Orenshein, who was trained in explosives, says Livvix first inquired about explosives after he said he and his workers had been the target of rock-throwing Arabs while they were cleaning graffiti from a synagogue. He said Livvix claimed he had thrown cleaning acid on the crowd below him to shoo them away. Livvix wanted something better to protect him and his workers and asked him if he could provide them with non-lethal grenades known as flash-bangs. Orenshein and other lone soldiers claimed it was not unusual for soldiers to take explosives with which they came in contact while serving in the Israeli army. Orenshein agreed to give Livvix and his workers flash-bangs, smoke granades and tear-gas canisters. While he was fetching these items at the base, he said another soldier asked him what he was doing. After he told him he just wanted them, the soldier led him to his room where he had four detonation bricks and booster chargers stored, which he offered to give him. He took all of the items home with him where he stored the lethal explosives and gave the non-lethal explosives to Livvix, who paid him the equivalent of $125 American dollars.
In October 2014, Orenshein says he was scheduled to go back to LA to visit his family for a 2-week vacation. By that point, he was thinking about going into business with Livvix, who had shown him plans for a plastics recycling business. One of Livvix's past criminal charges in Illinois involved misusing a $200,000 grant he received from the state of Illinois for a start-up plastics recycling business. Orenshein had also given Livvix a key to his apartment and agreed to let him move in with him. While he was in LA, Livvix called him and told him he wanted to buy the detonation bricks from him for a few hundred bucks. Orenshein told him to wait to discuss it when he got back to Israel. Orenshein showed Livvix' business plan to his father, who had owned a Kosher food business, and his father told him he thought the concept had "promise." When he returned to Israel, Livvix had moved into his apartment and had already taken the detonation bricks and hidden them "in a safe place," which was apparently the first sign of concern he had towards Livvix's behavior.
Orenshein would later learn that Livvix had thrown a party at his apartment while he was away and was showing off the explosives and bragging about how he wanted to blow up the Dome of the Rock with a nuclear weapon strapped to him. One of the party-goers became concerned and reported him to police. On November 21, 2014, Israeli police came knocking at his apartment door while only Livvix was at home. Livvix tried to escape by jumping out the 7th floor window of the apartment to a patio balcony on the floor below but was captured. Police found the explosives Orenshein had taken from his base in the apartment's storage unit. Orenshein says he learned of Livvix's arrest the following morning when a neighbor called to ask why someone had been arrested at his apartment. He says he went straight to his colonel and told him the whole story who told him to sit tight. Orenshein didn't have long to wait before officers with Israel's secret security agency, Shin Bet, arrived to begin interrogating him.
Both Livvix and Orenshein were held as terrorism suspects without access to attorneys according to Orenshein. He claims Livvix had also attempted to purchase explosives from other soldiers, and a sting operation was set up during which military police arrested another American lone soldier. Orenshein says he didn't learn until his second day of interrogation that Livvix was not a Navy SEAL. His interrogators claimed Livvix had a friend who was a Navy SEAL and had adopted stories and knowledge his friend had shared with him as his own. Maddaus said Orenshein began to cry as he explained his realization he had staked his future on and had been aiding a "psycho." He told Maddaus that Livvix had brainwashed him.
The more you read Orenshein's account of events, the more incredulous it becomes. Recall that initial news reports of Livvix's arrest in Israel on terrorism charges had erroneously described him as a fundamentalist Christian from Texas. Livvix, of course, was facing multiple criminal charges (including theft and drug-related charges) and probation violations in Illinois and Indiana before he traveled to Israel in 2013. His mother, Jennie Woolverton, had driven him to the airport in Chicago in 2013 to board a plane headed to Germany on his way to Israel. She secretly communicated with him through a Yahoo e-mail account they shared leaving messages for one another in draft e-mails for a period of time after he went to Israel before losing contact with him.
It defies common sense to believe Livvix's air travel wouldn't have thrown up any red flags with TSA agents given all of the outstanding criminal charges he faced at the time he left the country, assuming he was able to travel using his given name and U.S. passport. It's just another example of a problem person slipping through the cracks of a system that subjects innocent travelers to all kinds of hassles every time they attempt to board a plane anywhere. And since when did Israel's homeland security, respected as the best in the world, become so lax to let someone with Livvix's background slip into the country unnoticed? Livvix was supposedly broke when he left the United States, but he had all kinds of money to spend in Israel and contacts to set up a lucrative business. There's obviously much more to this story we're not being told, and the stories we're told just keep getting better.
Orenshein complained about the weeks of interrogations to which he had been subjected following his arrest. He said he failed an initial lie detector test given to him by his interrogators but later passed one. "They called me a liar, and said, 'You're going to stay here forever,'?" he said. "I freaked out and started slamming my head into the door." Later, he was blindfolded and led up a flight of stairs into a room. When his blindfold was removed, he was sitting across the table from Livvix. He said a group of interrogators asked the two men questions to see how closely their stories matched up. Orenshein claimed Livvix was caught up in an inconsistency at one point, causing one of the interrogators to yell at him, "Cut the shit" as he struck him across the face very hard. Orenshein laughed at recalling that moment. He says he never saw Livvix again. "I would have shot him in the leg and arrested him," Orenshein said to Maddaus if he had known what Livvix was really all about.
Things didn't turn out so bad for Orenshein. Although he was charged with selling the explosives to Livvix, he was released from prison in April after voluntarily entering a guilty plea despite his insistence he never made a deal with Livvix. A three-judge military panel looked charitably upon Orenshein, describing him as an "innocent and naïve" young man who had "developed an admiration and absolute devotion to Adam, was taken under his wing, and his ability to judge Adam and his statements was compromised." Orenshein was demoted from sergeant to private and released from custody because his service in the IDF had been fully served. He now plans to attend Santa Monica College in the fall where he plans to study engineering.
A September 18, 2014 report by The Boiling Point described Orenshein prior to his arrest as a member of the Special Forces unit of the Givati Brigade. In a telephone interview, Orenshein described his unit's dangerous assignment blowing up tunnels built by Hamas:
Kevin had experienced at least one very close call.
At the start of the penultimate ceasefire, a unit he’d been with until the previous day discovered a tunnel near the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. As they entered, a terrorist blew himself up and killed three of Kevin’s friends: Major Benaya Sarel, 1st Sgt. Liel Gidoni, and Lt Hadar Goldin, who at first was thought to have been kidnapped.
“They set up an ambush,” Kevin said in a telephone interview from Israel last week. “The terrorist came out and my friend Liel shot him, but he still blew himself up. If we had been there, it would have been us.
“ For six months before the war, his unit had been guarding the Gaza border. Tensions were running high.
“You’re protecting the cites that are along the border, protecting the border fence and making sure no terrorists jump in and out of tunnels placing bombs and all that stuff,” Kevin said.
He said they were aware of the tunnels and were trying to destroy them.
“They’re very well hidden, they were very deep,” Kevin said. “We would send these drilling machines along the border fence, they would drill 50 meters down and then move on. Drill a hole, move a meter, drill a hole — one time a terrorist shot the hydraulic system out with a rifle.”
He cannot say exactly what he did during the war, but he did say his unit was involved in destroying houses with explosives to seal off tunnels without having to call in airstrikes.
“We would detonate our explosives in a specific way so the stronghold would collapse on itself, instead of exploding and wounding other soldiers in the area,” Kevin said.
“That way the Air Force isn’t going to send a massive bomb. That would be serious overkill as opposed to us… and this way no one in the surrounding area will get hit.”As Advance Indiana recently reported, the Israelis also released Livvix without pursuing any criminal charges against him so he could be extradited back to Illinois to face pending charges involving the theft of farm machinery equipment in Robinson, Illinois. He had been deemed mentally unfit to stand trial in Israel in April according to a court-appointed psychiatrist who examined him. Livvix supposedly told his Israeli interrogators all sorts of wild stories while in custody, including a claim he had traveled to the West Bank where he been recruited by Palestinian terrorists to assassinate President Obama. Orenshein claimed Livvix had bitten off and eaten one of his fingers while in custody. I'm sure it couldn't have been cut off by his Shin Bet interrogators. He believes Livvix faked his insanity to avoid trial. "This guy is smart," Orenshein said. "I'm sure he's pulling this crap on purpose."
Noticeably, the LA Weekly story omits any mention of Livvix being a brother-in-law to Tony George of the Hulman-George family, which owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Tony's wife, Laura, and her sisters had fought to wrestle control of their father's plastics business in Marshall, Illinois, Custom Films, from Adam and his younger brother, Tyler. Although his father, Darrell Livvix, disinherited his sons prior to his death, the brothers had pretty much managed to run what had been a successful company into the ground. It no longer is in business. Among the outstanding charges pending against Livvix is a theft charge in Morgan County and a probation violation in Hamilton County for a prior drug conviction.